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Best method to stop negative behaviors

Discussion in 'Behavior' started by JAB5022, Jul 7, 2020.

  1. JAB5022

    JAB5022 Forums Novice

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    Help! I am not new to this game. I've owned four Shelties. I know they bark at anything that moves, but my current Sheltie is attempting to chase cars and its dangerous.

    First - I live in a townhouse with a small yard. Therefore, she must be walked. I never ever walk her without a lead.

    Second - She will attempt to take off if she sees a car, truck, bicycle, scooter, stroller, wheel barrow, lawnmower, or vacuum. In other words, if it moves she is going after it.

    I've done everything trying to get her to stop. If she hears a motor, or sees wheels turning, she perks up, starts pulling on the lead, frantically barking and immediately tries to charge. Its dangerous. If she ever got away from me, she could get run over. I choke up on the lead, and tell her no cars with little to no effect. She is very food motivated, and I've tried rewarding her with treats. The treats work for the moment and the next time we are outside, she is back in charge mode.

    I've had people tell me to do everything from shock collar, spray water bottle, and shake a can of coins. I need feedback from the Sheltie family. Can you give some advice on what you think would be the best method to get her stop the negative behavior? I would like to be able to use the behavior modification training with other behaviors that are problematic, but necessarily dangerous.
     
    Piper's mom likes this.
  2. Sharon7

    Sharon7 Moderator

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    You need to try desensitizing her and it's going to take lots of time and patience. Others with more experience in this area will hopefully weigh in. The idea is you start at a far distance, letting her see the stimulus, and then reward for calm behavior. Teaching the "watch" command first might be a valuable first step. You need to have something incredibly yummy. For my dogs that would be pieces of cooked chicken or peanut butter on a spoon.

    Then once you have good behavior at a distance you move closer to the stimulus and start again. Keep the training sessions short and end on a good note.

    I would NEVER use a shock collar on a Sheltie.
     
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  3. Sandy in CT

    Sandy in CT Premium Member

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    We are dealing with the same... if it moves, he feels the need to go herd it. Getting better, we treat, treat, treat for 'leave it'. Neighbors know and most are attempting to help. Never was like this until the Covid shut down but quickly became reactive. I like the ideas above and will try incorporating them into our training.
     
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  4. ghggp

    ghggp Moderator

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    Please never use any negative methods of correcting a sheltie... they are just too sensitive.

    I would try to teach her the watch me command. Also, as soon as you see a car or notice her perking up immediately change direction and walk the other way. You really need to train her to focus on you. Easier said than done I know.


     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2020
  5. DianeP

    DianeP Forums Enthusiast

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    First, JAB, let me say I truly feel your pain! We have this issue with our fourth Sheltie, too! It popped up when she was around 5-6 months old. She is now 20 months. I’ve tried all the usual things including desensitizing her. What has helped us are a few management techniques I picked up from an online class with Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. I’ll try not to go on and on, but here are a few thoughts:

    1. With our Mindy, the basis of chasing is fear. I’ll get you before you get me and damn, every time she chases a car, it runs away from her, leading her to believe chasing is an effective thing to do.
    2. I expose her to cars as little as possible. We live in a condo, so no yard. We cannot go for regular leash walks in our neighborhood. When I started working with her, I would literally put her in the car and drive her somewhere we could walk with no exposure to traffic. We are lucky to live adjacent to a park which helps (but still, bikes and skateboards).
    3. What’s really helped is me developing a set of management skills that I immediately put to use. These range from running in the opposite direction from an oncoming car while bowling treats out ahead of her, picking her up and shoving a handful of treats in her mouth (I mean a big handful) until the car has passed. To asking her for jump ups or two up behaviors as we move away from the road (like up into a lawn). All of this is designed to get her distracted and away from the threat. I practiced all these things for weeks in and out with her without traffic so she just thought it was a game when it happens around cars or bikes. It’s all about her learning I am going to help her from going over threshold arousal when she’s faced with something so scary for her.
    4. In the meantime, we have quiet sessions where we sit at a distance from the road where she can remain calm when a car comes into view. Every vehicle that appears, she gets treats and praise, treats and praise. I don’t require her to look at me. What I look for is her being calm.

    We don’t have the problem entirely conquered, but I am so much less stressed because I have a plan other than standing there saying OMG when she starts to flip out. Also, I notice, if I observe her closely, she will tell me when she’s unsure about walking somewhere and we just don’t do it. It’s much easier for me to feel compassionate when I see her fear, not just the craziness. We can now walk on very quiet streets with super low traffic if I use these techniques. PM me if you’d like to hear more!
     
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  6. Piper's mom

    Piper's mom Moderator

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    I agree with Diane, you really have to start where there is little to no traffic, before the dogs reaches the point where they're behaviour is over the top. I would start at home by playing traffic sounds and treating and then going somewhere (even if you have to drive) there's little traffic, as Diane suggested a park perhaps. It's a slow process. Slowly increase the amount of traffic noises she's exposed to, but reduce it if she's still overly stimulated. Never hurts to go backwards a bit in training.
    Do you do any obedience classes? It would help to improve her confidence level (and yours as well) and help you work on different techniques to help your girl.
    Good luck and keep us posted.
     
  7. Caro

    Caro Moderator

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    How old is your Sheltie? This is very common behaviour in young Shelties, if she's older it could be herding instinct. It's a slightly different approach depending on the cause.

    You have to be very careful about giving a dog treats in a highly aroused state. If you are giving her the treats when she is barking/chasing or about to, then you are reinforcing the behaviour - 'I bark/chase I get treats', so it makes things worse, not better. When you attempt training, it needs to be at a distance, and also in short sessions so she isn't getting aroused.

    Does she know 'look' or 'watch'? This is a really important command, if you google it you should find lots of videos. When you know something is going past you need her to 'look' at your face, sit and be calm and only then does she get a treat. Only treat the focused, calm dog. You may need to do this at quite some distance, and maybe even every few metres, but a food motivated Sheltie will pick up quickly that calm is the only way they'll get a treat. On walks, have your dog regularly 'check in' with you - a sit with a look or watch, even when there isn't traffic. You want her to know she's with you, and when we're calm and you check in you get a reward. The rewards don't just happen when I might be naughty.

    You need to recognise the situations before they happen and also the signal that she's up to something. My boy Deska was a shocking car and bike herder, I could tell by the look on his face - looking in the distance with a grin - that was when he was looking out for something to chase.

    If she is chasing traffic in particular, I suggest playing traffic sounds in the background at home. This way you seperate the sound of the traffic from the movement, atm I she's listening out for the sound of something to chase before it even arrives.

    If she's a young dog, take a squeaky toy with you and stop and have a play regularly. A young dog is just looking for fun, and you need to be more fun than the traffic. Humans tend to just walk in a straight line and not interact with their dogs - it's no wonder the dogs get bored as linear walks are not natural. Mix up what you do, play, do some obedience commands. And importantly, don't just walk in a straight line, zig zag, about turn, go left or right, do unexpected things.

    An older dog with herding issues will need a distraction that kicks in their herding instinct. I won't go into that as it takes a bit more thought.

    Talking about changing direction, if you get near a road and she starts the behaviour you've already lost her. Turn around and quickly walk away. Get her to a point where you can get her attention, do some focus exercises and have her calm down before attempting to go near the road again.

    You will also need to recognise her 'critical distance' or red zone - how close she gets to something before you lose her focus. Doing any sort of training needs to start outside that critical distance so you still have her focus. The idea is that, over time, you can reduce that critical distance and get closer and closer without a reaction.

    As you progress, I would also recommend teaching a 'leave it' (which is not the same as wait). It means you are never, ever going to get the thing I told you to leave. It is a fantastic command and can be used in many situations - like you're walking past traffic and wants to chase, or there's something on the ground she wants to eat. This is how I teach leave it

    As mentioned it sounds like some obedience classes would really help develop a focus in your dog and give you the skills for managing her. There are lots of online courses too if you can't get to a class. There are so many more techniques and it's much easier to show it that write it down.

    The several techniques that your were suggested are all negative approaches, and you are right to be cautious. If you punish or scare a dog in an aroused state the excitement can quickly turn to fear or aggression (in a Sheltie it's more likely to become fear). Water bottles I hate using as punishment for Shelties because they are a grooming tool I don't want my dogs to be scared of.

    Btw - my car/bike chaser was never cured. He was over two when he started, and he was silent when he 'herded', one minute next to me the next chasing a bike 1/2 a km away. Now that was dangerous. But he did love to chase me too so sometimes that was his trade off.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2020
  8. DianeP

    DianeP Forums Enthusiast

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    A concept I picked up from Amy Cook, (a trainer with Fenzi) which I found really helpful is to consider management and training as two distinct things. As people are saying, training needs to happen when the dog is calm. Dogs (like people) can’t learn in an over aroused emotional state. That’s why the desensitization (classical conditioning) needs to happen when the dog is far enough from a car not to get aroused. In this case, it’s a basic car = cookie with the hope that over time, dog says, “oh, a car, look to mom for a cookie” rather than flipping into an over aroused state. Doing this, we are working on changing the dog’s underlying emotional state when confronted with a troubling stimulus (car, bike, vacuum, whatever).

    On the other hand, management is what to do when we are caught off guard by an unplanned trigger or cannot protect the dog from the thing that makes them flip out (car, bike skateboard). Running away, playing a touch game, or whatever...Management techniques do not train your dog explicitly, but they give you ways to de-escalate the situation so the dog is not continually rehearsing their over arousal.

    With Mindy, I don’t train the “look” specifically around cars. As I’ve done the treat/car pairing at a safe distance, she automatically looks to me because she just knows the treat is coming. She still gets to look at the scary thing first, then turns to me and gets a reward. Hope this makes sense.

    BTW, one indicator of a dog’s stress is how they take treats. If they take them calmly, all is good. If they grab them shark style, they are probably over aroused.
     
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  9. JAB5022

    JAB5022 Forums Novice

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    My girl is 13 months old and she is by far the smartest Sheltie I've owned. She has always been on high alert with cars and moving things, but it seems to have gotten worse over the past couple of months. This may be due to the fact that I am working from home because of COVID and she gets walked a lot more than usual.

    This girl is very social. She never meets a stranger (human or animal) and she is very curious. She is also very strong willed and stubborn. She will actually sass me if I fuss at her for trying to chase cars.

    Thanks for all the advice. I will give everyone's suggestion a try. I'm scared to death she is going to get a way from me and get pancaked by car.
     
  10. Caro

    Caro Moderator

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    What was the Fenzi course you did for dealing with arousal? I know a couple of people dealing adolescent Shelties who are thinking of a trainer but might be interested in a Fenzi course.
     
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